I think one of the things I miss the most during this time of pandemic isolation reality is being able to gather around a table with those I love. I don’t think I’ve truly understood the importance of ‘gathering together’ in my life until now when it isn’t advisable to do so.
Tables are made for gathering, and so are we.
Every room in my house has a table. Some just gather stuff: a bedside lamp and a stack of books; a little collection of photos and a jar of buttons. But most tables are designed to be a place where people sit and gather.
In our home, there’s the gem of a dining room table we found in an antique shop in downtown Milwaukee. It came with six chairs, three leaves and a sideboard. The rattan seated chairs have since been replaced by some Amish built oak chairs of a sturdier variety.
Then, there is our wonderful kitchen table purchased shortly after moving into our home 20-something years ago. I fell in love with that table when we were shopping for a couch – actually, I think it was the table’s matching china cabinet that I fell in love with, but hubby was willing to buy the whole set for me. The table has taken a beating over the years, but it’s still our favorite place for family and friends to gather for a meal, to work a puzzle or play a game, or sing “Happy Birthday” and enjoy the requisite cake.
This favorite table of mine has a little drawer on one its long sides. Matt and Beth always sat on that side of the table. I didn’t find out until they were all grown up that whenever they didn’t want to eat something on their plate, they would wait until I wasn’t looking and then tuck whatever it was in the drawer. Later, when no one was in the room, they’d return to the scene of the crime and remove the disgusting food and hide it in the garbage can. It would not have been a laughing matter if they were caught doing that back then, but it is now. Whenever I sit at that table to craft or sew, I see that little drawer and smile.
My favorite table in its present abode – my craft room…and a glimpse at Matt and Beth’s drawer.
Memories are even etched in the table top itself. If you look at its table top from just the right angle and in the right light, you’ll notice years and years of homework assignments, letters, and grocery lists etched into its soft pine wood. My favorite table continues to gather memories of this sort (along with paint splotches, glitter and glue) as my grandkids gather around it and work on various arts and crafts.
Tables are made for gathering. I hope that my favorite table will be a place to create and gather memories for many years to come.
I’m a familiar face at Oregon Manor Skilled Nursing Facility in Oregon, WI. Normally, I’m in and out of there several times a week, transporting my brother Brad to or from somewhere or another, or just stopping by to bring him a smile and a cup of coffee (and a donut, if he’s lucky).
Things are a bit different now. Now I can’t go in at all.
On Monday, I rang the doorbell to the skilled nursing facility and then waited on their front porch. Tom, the facility’s administrator answered. I told him I was there to pick up Brad for an appointment at the VA. Tom went to get Brad from his room and then delivered Brad and the necessary paperwork with his medical information to me on the front porch. Tom apologized for being unable to let me in, but I understood; it was for the safety of everyone, myself included.
Even purchasing a cup of coffee for my brother was entirely different, somewhat strange experience.
I usually stop at the Kwik Trip just down the road from where Brad lives and pop in to buy him a cup of coffee to drink on our way to the hospital. Brad likes their coffee, so it’s a treat for him. Today I couldn’t pour him a cup of coffee and fix it the way he liked it because they had suspended all of their self-serve food and beverages. No worries, though. Thankfully, an employee, donned in gloves, poured Brad’s Kona dark into the extra-large cup, then added half & half until I said “when” – he likes a LOT of half & half, so “when” took awhile.
Our route takes us through the UW-Madison campus, normally teaming with student activity. Not this time. No students on bikes. No pedestrian traffic. Businesses that cater to student customers seemed forlorn and bereft of customers – some looked closed. Definitely an easier commute, but sad at the same time.
We needed to answer more than the usual screening questions at the VA’s parking garage, which seemed cavernously empty. In stark contrast to my usual squeal of delight when I actually am able to find a handicap parking spot (with my brother giving me the amused side-eye), we were both in wide-eyed wonder that we had our pick of ALL the prime handicap spots today. In fact, ANY spot would have been large enough to maneuver my brother in and out of the car with his wheelchair. It was like a ghost-town.
The procedures for gaining access to the hospital changed too, so as to minimize the risk of infection. There was a designated entrance with closer scrutiny and screening, and explicit directions to use an entirely different designated exit to minimize contact. There was no wait for an elevator (although there was one man on the elevator who protested that we got on it with him); it’s really hard to practice social distancing when you’re in an elevator and pushing a wheelchair.
Checking into the podiatry clinic was different too. A line of blue tape on the carpeting masked off a safe distance from the clinic’s reception desk. Brad and I had the pick of ALL the spots in the empty waiting room in the Lighthouse Clinic’s waiting room, where we normally have to find a spot within ear-shot in a nearby hallway. Very few patients are being seen, but they wanted my brother to come in because he is at great risk for bone infection and they are concerned about the possibility of him losing his big toe. I’d show you a picture, but trust me, you don’t want to see it.
Working with a skeleton crew in their clinic, the doctor himself came out to call Brad back to an examination room. Normally dressed in standard issue scrubs, today he was wearing a mask and had a hospital gown over his scrubs; the gown wasn’t the usual disposable gown made of blue paper, rather the cloth type one wears if they are an in-patient in the hospital — you know, the ones that tie in the back and leave your backside exposed. He carefully examined Brad’s toe, emphasizing how important it was that we get this problem under control in order to avoid amputation. Brad routinely refuses care in his nursing home, so I’m hoping that this frank discussion put a little more cooperation in him. We’ll see.
In no time, we were headed back to Oregon Manor. Arriving at the same porch where I picked Brad up, we rang the doorbell and reversed the procedure. I thanked Tom and Brad’s nurse for all they’re doing to keep residents safe and healthy, assured them of my prayers for wisdom and protection, then headed home.
It’s a beautiful spring day and it was late-morning, so I decided to make McKee Farms Park my destination on my way home. The luscious fresh air is still a little nippy, so I buttoned up my jean jacket and headed to the paved walking path. It’s my custom to pray as I walk. Today I thanked God for the people who, at risk of their own health and welfare, take care of my brother and my mother. Walking, praying, and enjoying the beauty, I couldn’t help but notice how social distancing is evident even here at the park with people keeping the recommended 6 feet of distance between themselves. The playground was eerily quiet, with no children enjoying it, even though they are all out of school.
But you know what? I noticed something else at the park too – something nice. Families. They weren’t hanging out at the playground with the kids running around and parents seated on benches looking at their cell phones. Moms, dads and kids were out walking or riding their bikes together. They were talking, smiling and laughing together. One dad was out there teaching his little one how to ride a bike. Another dad was helping his kids fly kites while mom pulled a little picnic blanket and snack out of her backpack for them. One family was taking a walk ahead of me on the path, and the kids were having fun practicing what we’ve come to know as ‘social distancing’ as they held onto the ends of 6′ ropes.
As I continued my little prayer walk, I thanked God for showing me another hidden grace of this difficult time when we’re being advised to shelter at home and practice social distancing: families truly enjoying this slower pace of life together.
I would love to hear from you! Please share in the comment section below one of the “hidden graces” you have noticed during this crazy time of responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
The simple blessing of being able to attend my sweet granddaughter’s symphonic band concert on Wednesday night was not lost on me. My husband and I could both go to the concert. Together. We didn’t have to take turns going to these special events anymore. We didn’t have to hire a caregiver or ask a friend or family member to come spend a few hours with my mom. We could just go.
As we waited for the concert to begin, I looked down our row of seats in the high school auditorium and was caught up in a beautiful moment of realizing I was sitting here with my daughter and her family. I could sit next to grandson Charlie and give his back a scratch while we waited for the concert to begin. I could ask him during the concert what his favorite instrument was – percussion, if you’re wondering too. During the concert, I watched Henry, seated at the end of our row, totally taking in the music. I remember comparing Henry’s silhouette with that of his mother seated next to him – how fun to notice the similarities in their facial features. It made me smile. Even sitting next to wiggly George and helping him cover his ears during the loud or “scary” parts of the music was a special blessing to my grandma-heart.
Our flautist. (Such a strange word.) How fun to see Violet seated next to Izzy, her friend since kindergarten.
Of course, I relished watching Violet play her flute. When did she grow up to be such a poised and beautiful young lady? The obvious enjoyment she had in making music with her friends just thrilled my heart. The music was amazing – I could not believe this band had been practicing together for only two months.
Being able to attend this concert was a grace gift – a hidden blessing of having my sweet mom in memory care. My heart was reminded that I need not regret our decision to place mom in assisted living memory care earlier this year – it was an act of love – for her, for me, and for my family.
A few summers ago – 2015, I think – I was sitting on the ground pulling weeds from my front flowerbed when a sweet kitty crawled into my lap. Kitty had me from its first contented purr as I pet his head in response to his gentle head-butting insistence.
The next day, kitty showed up again while I was sitting on the porch glider taking a rest from puttering around in the garden. He hopped up on the glider and then crawled into my lap, kneaded my gardening apron, then did that circular little dance kitties do when they’re about to claim their favorite sleep spot.
I remember thinking, “I think this kitty just chose me as his person.”
One morning I woke up and saw kitty sleeping on the glider. That didn’t look very cozy to me, so I put a folded blanket on the glider for him. Later, I opened the front door to go sit with kitty and noticed that kitty had left a little present on our welcome mat. It was small, furry, and had a tail…but didn’t have a head anymore. It was obvious kitty had chosen us as his family, and had given us the gift of his leftover prey as a token of his devotion. He would continue to give us similar presents several times a week.
Wayne fell for the benevolent kitty too and began leaving food for it on our porch. People food and kitty food weren’t his favorites; Kitty much preferred his food…ummm, fresh.
Now Wayne had a very devoted fur-buddy, who literally followed him everywhere in the yard. Unfortunately, Wayne is very allergic to cats, so we couldn’t bring this stray kitty into our home. Kitty didn’t care – in fact, he seemed to prefer romping around in the great outdoors. He just kept showing up on our front porch, peeking in the front window meowing at us to come out and pet him.
The neighborhood scuttlebutt was that this stray cat had once belonged to a nearby neighbor on the street behind us. Word had it that they moved back to India to be closer to family and left kitty behind.
We named our new porch kitty Smokey because his pretty gray fur had little white stripes that resembled little whisps of smoke. We sometimes called him a “her” because we didn’t REALLY know. If you read my Facebook posts about the cat over the past four years, you’ll see I bounced back and forth calling it a he or she, him or her, and spelling its name “Smokie” or “Smoky,” or “Smokey.” The cat never seemed to mind my indecisiveness, but our veterinarian friend later confirmed it was a neutered male, based on what he didn’t see…and because he had a broader face and deeper ‘meow’ more typical of male cats.
Our family got in on the kitty lovin’ too. Our daughter gave us a rabbit hutch she was no longer using. Wayne painted it the same color as our front door. It fit perfectly in a sheltered corner of the front porch right by the front door. I filled it with old towels and blankets and our Smokey moved right in.
I stopped at Goodwill and bought the kitty a little divided food dish. But, the next thing we knew, we were buying things on Amazon for the cat. Food, of course, as he had now been won over to having most of his meals coming out of a bag. Since he would be an outdoor kitty, a heated pad to keep him warm in his little house during Wisconsin’s nippy winter weather was next. Of course, he also needed a heated water bowl too. And a brush.
Some people have a dog to greet guests at the front door. Not us. Our kitty startled many a guest by popping out of his house as they rang our doorbell. Our mailman LOVED our porch kitty and lavished lots of attention on him whenever he’d deliver a package. The grandkids loved to sit on the glider and brush or pet him. He even kept my sweet momma company when she’d occasionally sit with him on the glider and brush him, or talk with him through her bedroom window.
This past week, we noticed that Smokey didn’t eat his breakfast. No worries. His appetite has grown smaller as he has grown older – and he still sometimes prefers to catch a fresh meal once in awhile. Wayne went out to fill his dish at suppertime and found that his breakfast still hadn’t been touched. Now, that was a bit odd. Come to think of it, Smokey hadn’t been hanging out in his little home all day. I took some clean blankets and towels (fresh from the dryer) out to his house. Smokey usually comes running when I change his bedding and will hardly let me get the new bedding situated in his cozy house before he crawls in and makes himself at home.
He didn’t come. In fact, he didn’t come home all weekend. He’s still not home. Sadly, we know in our hearts he isn’t coming home again.
So, goodbye sweet Smokey kitty. We hope you found a nice cozy spot to lay down for your final sleep. We miss you already. We loved being your family. Thank you for choosing us.
We can’t seem to catch a break from rain around these parts in Wisconsin, but I’m up for a little walk through the garden. If you come along with me on tonight’s barefoot garden tour, it’ll be a bit sloshy underfoot. If you want to stay dry and not have to swat at mosquitoes, you can visit other gardens all around the world with just a click. Just pop on over to our Six on Saturday meme host’s site at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/
On our little tour you’ll see that my daylilies and Asiatic lilies are beginning to bloom, with lots of promising blossoms yet to open on their scapes and peduncles (pictures to come, I’m sure). Clematis has been detained by our wonky wet weather, but the blossoms on all my plants are going strong now. I’m not sure what’s eating them, but bugs are threatening to munch their lovely floweriferousness…but I’m determined to keep after the pesky bugs! Oh, and you’re going to love my Japanese iris…simply gorgeous!
Knowing I wanted to paint some old chairs to serve as garden art, my daughter picked up two chairs discarded by the side of the road and brought them to me. My granddaughters Mia and Noelle, and honorary grandgirl, Natalie, stayed with me a few days last summer, so put them to work painting one of them. I think they did a fantastic job. I placed it in the garden where it can serve as a support for a little bit of my garden phlox.
We met through the mail when I was 15 and he was 21. He was in the Navy and I was in high school. Just before my 17th birthday we decided we wanted to get married, then got officially engaged on my 18th birthday, and married the next summer on my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary – July 3, 1976.
We’ve now been blessed with forty-three years of marriage and two children, Matthew and Elisabeth. We’ve seen God provide godly spouses for each of them. Icing on the cake…before long, the Lord blessed us with grandchildren: three grandgirls and three grandboys.
We’ve also been blessed to put down roots in only a handful of places: one apartment and three houses we have called “home.” I remember back in 1977 we discovered a little gem on 49th Street that would only cost us $10 more per month than we were paying in rent for our little furnished apartment. It wasn’t very big, but it was ours and perfect for our little family of three (soon to be four). God provided then, and He still provides for us now.
Over the years we’ve owned our fair share of pets (thankfully, not all at the same time) : one guinea pig, one cockatiel named ‘Jingles’, two gerbils named ‘Digger and Aaron’ (apparently NOT brothers, as evidenced by their very large family), one hamster named ‘Houdini’ (he actually did disappear and we’re really not sure where he went), two “free” dogs (Dusty and Hooch), and one porch kitty who adopted us three summers ago.
On this day, our 43rd wedding anniversary, I could think of no other person on earth who is as perfect for me as this man. May the Lord bless us with more years to walk together in love, as Christ loved us.
Ephesians 5:2:”And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. Life is Good!
Let me introduce you to Violet. This granddaughter has held my heart for 15 years now and I am quite certain she has a special place for me in her heart too. Any time we spend together is special.
Not only does she love me well, but she also has a special softness in her heart for her memory impaired great-grandmother. Violet goes out of her way to be a bright spot in my mother’s day as often as she is able. Most recently she wrote a few letters to her and asked me to slip them in her purse every now and then so she had something new to read. On other occasions she will come with me to visit her GGma.
Violet and I share in common a love for writing. I love reading what she writes and especially love finding her thoughtful notes sprinkled liberally throughout my house. On a recent visit, Violet picked up a pencil and a notepad and poured out some thoughts on paper about Alzheimer’s. I asked for permission to share them on Barefoot Lily Lady.
Alzheimer’s By Violet Cynthia Schultz
Family becomes strangers ‘Home’ becomes lost Books become confusing Memories become a maze. Guests become intruders Flowers become weeds Shouts become whispers Old stories are forgotten making them new again.
Yet the smile of a stranger can still brighten up the day Help from a friend becomes a blessing when you’re lost. The old photo album jogs memories new and old. The surprise intruders become a highlight of the day. The countless weeds spark the old passion of gardening And the whisper of a voice ensures comfort, rest, and security.
I love Christmas. My husband would tell you that sometimes I go a little too crazy with the cleaning, baking, gift-wrapping and preparations. And he would be right. But the joy of a family gathering together makes it all worthwhile.
Our Christmas was different this year. Very different. In fact, I can think of seven differences right off the top of my head.
Difference #1 – I didn’t go crazy decorating this year.I put up and decorated our Christmas tree. And that’s it. And I didn’t even hang ALL of the ornaments. No garlands and lights. No wreaths. No candles, or anything else lurking in the bins marked “Christmas” in my storage area. I didn’t even put out Christmas napkins or plates.
And, you know what? I still loved it.
Difference #2 – Less Sugar. LOTS less sugar. My children and grandchildren have grown accustomed to favorite home-baked cookies and candies being stacked one atop the other in a special set of aluminum stacking trays I inherited from my mother-in-law. Every year each of five layers of trays included our favorites: Snowball cookies, candy cane cookies, chocolate fudge, peppermint patties, and soft ginger cookies dipped in white chocolate. Eyes would open wide whenever I’d bring the tray full of goodies out of the 3-season porch (our second fridge in the winter). Everyone knew yumminess was contained within those five layers.
This year, we’re all more conscious of sugar and what too much sugar can do to the body. I made one sweet treat and skipped baking Christmas cookies (with the exception of a batch of gluten-free snowball cookies for my hubby). There also weren’t candy dishes throughout the house filled with M&M’s and chocolate candies.
We still enjoyed Christmas – sans the sugar high.
Difference #3 – The guests. The people gathered were a sweet mix of family and friends. Our daughter and her family were part of the usual cast of characters at our celebration, but our son and his family could not come because they were using this time off of work and school to go on a family vacation. This year our gathering included our new friends and adopted family of the heart Herim and Waldely, and their sweet daughters Fabiana and Alexa. If that weren’t blessing enough, as a bonus, our celebration also included Herim’s visiting cousin Anna and Anna’s nephew Luigi.
In addition to hearing a lot of Spanish floating around the room, our little family relished spending time with our new friends as they shared with us more about their country of birth, Venezuela. We learned about the similarities and differences in customs, and laughed together over the cultural differences that one stumbles upon when being immersed in the language and traditions of the United States. Waldely shared the humor she found when Americans are introduced to a new food they don’t particularly like. We don’t just come out and say, “I don’t like it.” With a little raise of our eyebrows, we say, “Mmmm…interesting.”
I only wish I had taken pictures!!
Difference #4 – The meal. It was an early lunch, rather than an evening meal together to accommodate everyone’s schedules for the rest of the day. It was rather simple fare with ham and cheese sliders on the menu, rather than the egg-laden brunch casserole I had originally planned. There were a few equally simple go-withs such as deviled eggs, a little fruit tray, a few cut-up veggies with dip, potato chips, pickles/olives, and the like. Waldely added quesillo, a delicious traditional Venezuelan flan to our buffet spread. Oh, so yummy! Estaba delicioso!
Difference #5 – Gluten Free Options.In our family, we traditionally enjoy what we call “Wisconsin Buns” on Christmas Eve. It’s a recipe handed down to me by my mother-in-love. She made it almost weekly in their family, but I reserve making this special (highly calorific and very bad for you) “coffee cake” for Christmas Eve morning (and will also make it as the birthday treat for any family member who requests it). This year I also made up an experimental batch of gluten-free Wisconsin Buns. Not the same by any stretch of the imagination, but a surprisingly tasty alternative treat for my husband, who now finds allergies to be a daily struggle.
Difference #6 – The shopping.All of our shopping was done by Wayne on-line this year – mostly via Amazon. No trudging around in malls. No being tempted by impulse purchases placed strategically at every check-out line. The kids and grandkids made lists on their wish-lists and the purchased gifts came to our door only needing to be wrapped. I love watching the faces of each grandchild as they open a gift they really wanted.
Difference #7 – Momma was here, but absent. Though our house was full of people laughing and the sounds of children playing, Momma pretty much missed all of the Christmas activity as she retreated to her room and slept throughout the day. Last year she was able to join us in the family room and watch in delight as her great-grandchildren opened gifts. This year, Alzheimer’s has noticeably taken away her delight in all things social. Her inability to participate in our celebration was a little sad. In spite of that, I’m glad her number on the wait-list hasn’t come up at the memory care facility we have reserved for her. It brought me peace of mind being able to peek in on her in our home.
If Momma had a wish-list for next year’s Christmas gift, heaven would be at the very top of her list. No more tears or confusion. No more memory problems. No more excruciating knee problems. And together with her Lord and Savior FOREVER!
Nearly three years ago, several large Rubbermaid bins filled with photo albums, loose photos, pictures in envelopes, boxes and tins made the move along with my mother from Milwaukee to Fitchburg. As time and energy allows, I am sorting through these photos – some of them from several generations before hers. Though it slows my progress a bit, Momma enjoys flipping through the photos and “helping” me sort them too.
Photos of mom’s childhood and early adult years will sometimes prompt a story or two. Alzheimer’s keeps her from remembering the name of the city where she had lived for the past 60 years, or even what she had for lunch, but she can remember the names of aunts and uncles she hasn’t seen in years, along with a few of the details of events from her childhood. Continue reading “Photos – Preserving My Family Story”